A Spanish-speaking man who defense attorneys said was misunderstood by fellow passengers on a flight to Hawaii was found not guilty of interfering with a flight crew.
Santiago Lol Tizol, 37, who is Guatemalan, had been accused of threatening to kill a baby and assaulting the airline crew. A federal jury found him not guilty on Friday.
"This was paranoia on a cramped plane where people were pretty stressed out," said Assistant Federal Defender Matthew Winters. "He was not trying to assault or intimidate anyone on this plane."
Tizol paced the aisles of the Dec. 9 Northwest Airlines flight bound for Honolulu from Los Angeles and didn't return to his seat when flight attendants yelled at him in English, Winters said. At one point, passengers heard Tizol use a Spanish word they thought sounded like "baby" and believed he was going to strangle a 3-year-old on the plane.
When he headed toward the first-class bathroom near the cockpit, at least four passengers tackled him, Winters said.
Tizol had accidentally spilled water, drenching his clothes and seat, and was walking around because he was wet, the attorney said.
"I feel very satisfied," Tizol said through an interpreter. "I'm very happy because I think I didn't do anything wrong."
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Shipley said he respected the jury's verdict, but disagreed with the defense's assertion that Tizol was a victim of paranoia.
Tizol would have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.